Toddlers are little Houdinis, aren't they? Just when you start to enjoy their newfound independence and minor self-reliance, they take it to another (totally annoying) level. A common crib-party trick with the under 3 set? Stripping down and ditching their diaper when they should be sleeping. If that's the conundrum you're facing at the moment, here's what to do if your kid keeps taking off their diaper at night.
Not only are babies mini-magicians, wriggling out of sleep sacks well before they can even feed themselves or peeling their socks off the minute you run to find their shoes, they're also very, very clever. Often, attempts to dissuade or prevent them from doing what you desperately don't want them to do have no effect at all.
So, like many parenting questions, if your kid keeps taking off their diaper at night, you have to put on your detective cap and start with the root cause so that you can begin to address the behavior itself. There are a few reasons your kid might be taking off their diaper at night, and subsequently a few ways to stop your kid taking it off as well.
First, they might be getting old enough to realize when they are wet (a sign that they're ready to potty train! Wahoo!) and are therefore taking off their diaper because they are uncomfortable. According to the Baby Sleep Site, taking off a diaper in the middle of the night could be a sign your toddler is recognizing "the sensation connected with having to pee, or having to poop, and that sensation may start waking her early in the morning, or in the middle of the night." If you, or your little one, aren't ready to tackle potty training just yet, you can try a more absorbent diaper or a larger size in order to keep your kid from getting uncomfortable as quickly, or you can begin to teach your toddler the language to communicate that they're uncomfortable with simple phrases, like "go potty" or "wet."
Second, your toddler might be dealing with a little pre-bedtime boredom in their crib and/or toddler bed. They're exploring their newfound tricks, like unzipping pajamas and un-velcro-ing diapers, which, of course, comes at a potentially very messy cost. If this sounds like your toddler (and a well-placed baby monitor might help you figure that out), try putting another diaper over your child's bedtime diaper in order to give them something to fiddle with as they fall asleep or even put the diaper on backwards to keep them from figuring it out as quickly.
Another way to help eliminate nighttime strip sessions is to begin to teach your kid how to dress themselves back up again. Kenneth Polin, M.D., a pediatrician at Town and Country Pediatrics in Chicago, told Parents, "Around 18 months of age, and sometimes even younger, toddlers will start undressing themselves because it doesn't require as much skill" as compared to putting clothes on. So, if they can take their clothes off, helping them learn how to put their clothes back on can be a pretty useful skill in the middle of the night.
Finally, if you believe your kid is simply taking his or her diaper off just to cause a ruckus to liven up nighttime and keep themselves awake, don't fall for it. Stay calm and explain that clothes stay on. Instead of focusing on how gross you find the situation, or how "naughty" it was, focus on teaching your child that clothes stay on unless they're in the bath. You can also teach your kid to use words to express that they need a change, and then change them and praise them for using the words quickly afterward. If all else fails, there's always the tried-and-true method of putting your toddler's pajamas on backwards, so they can't get to their diaper at all.
Outsmarting a toddler is surprisingly difficult, so the main thing to remember is to stay calm and remind yourself that you can win this battle of wills.